Introduction, “Interpreting the Pentateuch” pp. 1-79
Part D, “Revelation in Scripture (Text) and in History (Event)” pp. 16-22
How does God reveal himself? Sailhamer draws a distinction between history and text. “To a large extent the OT texts are historical narrative texts” (Sailhamer 1992, 16). By this he means the text purports to describe reality. The other way Sailhamer would analyze history is as the actual events. “Does this expression refer to revelation in a text or revelation in an event as such?” (Ibid., 17). He goes on to insist in light of 2 Timothy 3:16 that “the sense of history in a text-oriented approach would be that of the record of past events. The history in which God makes known his will is the recorded history in the text of Scripture. When formulated this way, evangelical biblical theology is based on a revelation that consists of the meaning of a text, with its focus of Scripture as a written document” (Ibid., 17). Conter to this, in the past some focus on events rather than texts. “In such an approach the events lying behind the text of Scripture are read as a salvation history within which God makes known his will to humanity” (Ibid., 17). He goes on to emphasize the importance of the actual text over the events recorded in the text.
Sailhamer compares his method to the salvation-history approach (p. 19). In this approach we view God making his will known to man through events which lead to salvation. The strength of this view is that it asserts the reality of God’s work in history. However, without a sufficient emphasis on Scripture as revelation itself this view can lead to a weakness based on the interpretation of events rather than on God’s Word. As an example, Sailhamer uses Geerhardus Vos. Citing his Biblical Theology Sailhamer represents Vos as considering historical events to create biblical theology. When dealing with the patriarchs, “The focus of his interest is not the author’s representation of Abraham in the Pentateuch as such but rather the revelation of God during the patriarchal period” (Ibid., 21).
In the end, Sailhamer is adamant that the text is what we analyze, and the events only insofar as they are explained by the text.